The Estadio Azteca at Mexico City was host to the last World Cup title won by the Argentinean team back in 1986. Led by the irreverent Diego Armando Maradona, Argentina defeated West Germany 3-2 in the final thanks to goals from José Brown, Jorge Valdano and Jorge Burruchaga. It was, in fact, the last time the Argentineans celebrated a victory at such a major tournament, since four years later in Italy, the Germans had their revenge in the final, when they defeated the South American team thanks to a lonely penalty kick goal by Andreas Brehme.
The current Argentinean team might be miles away from that group of talented players that offered La Albiceleste two World Cup titles in just eight years’ time. Nevertheless, Alejandro Sabella’s side still had plenty of quality and they are certainly one of the main contenders to win the tournament. During the CONMEBOL qualifying round, Argentina combined mastery with some underachieving performances (for instance, their defeat against Venezuela in October 2011). Alejandro Sabella opted for a 4-3-3 classic tactical scheme during a great deal of the qualifying stage, although, and due to the team’s defence inconsistency, he was forced to use a slightly more 5-3-2 conservative approach for the greater part of team’s away matches. The team’s impressive firepower, with Messi playing as an old school number 10 lurking behind Sergio Agüero and Híguain, and the presence of an attacking driven player as Angel Di Maria on the midfield triangle opens up some breaches into the Argentinean defensive line, which conceded 15 goals in the 16 matches of the CONMEBOL qualifying round.
Argentina were placed on Group F of the tournament, alongside with the first-timers Bosnia and Herzegovina and also Nigeria and Iran. The South American side are firm favourites to win the group and even to reach the final or to win the tournament and they should not face any major problem to walk through on such an apparently “easy” group.
Although Bosnia have a very interesting set of players, such as Pjanic, Dzeko, and Ibisevic, the pressure of making their debut on a World Cup might somehow increase the team’s anxiety levels and even put in some extra pressure, preventing them from being successful. Nevertheless, they might be the ones to walk through, along with Argentina, to the next round of the competition. As for Nigeria and Iran, their performances at the World Cup are what one might call unpredictable. Nigeria, in particular, have a quality group of players, although it is very unlikely that they can cause any major upset to Argentina and even to Bosnia.
Argentina’s performance and achievements in the next World Cup will certainly depend on the physical condition of their attacking quartet, composed of Messi, Agüero, Híguain, and Di Maria, since almost all of them have been injured quite some times throughout the season and might not be at their best to keep up with such a demanding task as the World Cup. If they manage to replicate some of their recent performances, La Albiceleste are a firm candidate to reach the final and even to win the competition without any major concerns.
15 June 2014: Argentina 2 Bosnia-Herzegovina 1 Best odds 1.36 @ Paddy Power
21 June 2014: Argentina 3 Iran 0 Best Odds 1.16 @ Paddy Power
25 June 2014: Nigeria 1 Argentina 2 Best Odds 1.40 @ William Hill
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero, Mariano Andujar, Agustin Orion
Defenders:Pablo Zabaleta, Federico Fernández, Ezequiel Garay, Marcos Rojo, Hugo Campagnaro, Martin Demichelis, Jose Basanta, Nicolas Otamendi.
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano, Fernando Gago, Lucas Biglia, Ever Banega, Ricardo Alvarez, Augusto Fernandez, Jose Sosa, Angel Di Maria, Maxi Rodriguez, Enzo Perez.
Forwards: Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Rodrigo Palacio, Ezequiel Lavezzi.